Law firm RPC said the number of trademarks registered for beer reached a record high of 2,372 in 2017, up from 1,983 the previous year. It added that the number of beer trademarks had more than doubled since 2010, when there was just 1,072 registered.
Consumer demand for ‘limited edition’ and ‘small batch’ beers has meant breweries are launching more product lines with their own trademarks.
This is a radical change from the pre-craft beer model, which saw brewers consolidate their product lines and promote a few ‘global brands’, according to RPC.
Recent disputes involving beer trademarks include Scottish craft beer business BrewDog issued a legal warning against a Birmingham pub to prevent it sharing its name with BrewDog’s gin brand LoneWolf but this has since been withdrawn.
One example the law firm gave was BrewDog, which now lists 20 different beers on its website. Heineken on the other hand, only advertises two beers in the UK, under the Heineken brand.
Some major breweries are following the craft beer model of having a larger range of trademark protected products, not just buying craft brands through mergers and acquisitions, but launching more products under their own marque. One example of this is Diageo-owned Guinness, which now produces a range of lagers and pale ales.
RPC said the UK craft beer industry has followed the explosive growth of the sector in the US. The market for beer trademarks is so active in the US that there are now boutique law firms focused on beer trademarks.
The firm's legal director Ben Mark claimed the craft beer market has grown to a scale where some of the intellectual property behind the brands is extremely valuable and protecting the value of these brands is becoming increasingly important.
The legal company also said the rise in the number of beer trademarks has inevitably led to a number of disputes in the sector and this has emphasised the need for businesses to protect their brands from the outset.
RPC partner Ciara Cullen said: “The enormous range of products now available means that beer brands are likely to overlap.
“By ensuring the business’s intellectual property is protected, actively monitored and enforced from the outset, this gives the business an edge on the competition in an increasingly saturated market.
“It can also alleviate the risk of and lengthy legal battles down the road that inevitably distract from the more exciting business of innovation and growth.”